LLC suggested for future mental health services
November 29, 2018
Wahkiakum County commissioners voted Tuesday to support creation of a limited liability company to oversee mental health services in 2020.
Currently, state and federal funds for mental health are managed by the Great Rivers Behavioral Health Organization, which covers Wahkiakum, Pacific, Cowlitz, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties. Representatives from each of the counties form a board of directors, with each county having one vote. The organization channels funds to the service providers in each county. Wahkiakum is the only county that provides mental health services; the other four contract with companies for services.
Under a new, state mandated arrangement, funds will go to for-profit managed care plan organizations or to other behavior health organizations that would manage block grants for certain services.
In effect, Great Rivers Chief Executive Officer Marc Bollinger said, the current organization will go away, and clients will likely see a reduction in services.
“It would have a negative impact across the entire region, especially in Wahkiakum and Pacific counties,” Bollinger said Tuesday.
The organization would like to create the LLC to maintain the services.
The transformation of Great Rivers into the new organization needs participation by all five counties, but Lewis County has become a sticking point, officials said.
Lewis County officials have asked for major changes in the proposed LLC agreement, said Fred Johnson, the retired Wahkiakum prosecuting attorney who serves as legal counsel for Great Rivers. In its latest letter, Lewis officials want to eliminate all language saying the LLC is a behavioral health provider; the changes would take away the flexibility to customize services and lock the county into the basic state contract.
Essentially, Lewis doesn’t want government providing services if private enterprise can provide the services, Johnson said.
“That’s not in our best interest,” commented Blair Brady.
“The safety net is at risk,” Bollinger said. “It’s more costly to provide services out here in rural areas like Wahkiakum and Pacific counties.”
Bollinger and Johnson said the other counties are willing to modify the LLC language in some ways.
It’s important to resolve the issue soon, Bollinger said.
“If this doesn’t move forward, we will have to start shutting our organization down,” Bollinger said. “We’ll have to downsize over the next year. We’ll have to find new places for hundreds of people to start receiving services, laying off staff, which is fine; we’re going to have to reduce funding to providers . . . “
Commissioners Brady and Mike Backman favored adopting language stating counties could opt out of providing services. Johnson pointed out that county commissioners already have the power to choose what programs they want to fund in their county .
In the end, the Wahkiakum commissioners voted to support the creation of the LLC as a flexible means of providing services under local control.
“I don’t want this to drag out either; I’m all for it,” said Commissioner Dan Cothren.
“We don’t want to risk clients,” Brady said.